WEEK 6 – 2015: Reuben Keiper – How did he get So Far Away?

I had planned on writing about another ancestor for this week’s 52 Ancestors challenge and theme “So Far Away.” However, I went a little “far away” myself when I became distracted and might have discovered a little bit of a break in a brick wall that my 3rd great grandfather, Reuben Keiper, has been hiding behind for a long time.

My Keiper ancestors have been quite a challenge for me. The family myth has always been that my great great grandmother, Sarah Jane Keiper, was a full-blood Indian who was adopted. I had never found proof to support that myth. Sarah’s death certificate said she was born April 16, 1853 in White Haven, PA and her parents were Reuben Keiper and Elizabeth Prutzman. I found Sarah living with Reuben and Elizabeth and other siblings in Kidder Township, Carbon County, PA in the 1860 census. Reuben’s birthdate was estimated to be around 1820. He and Elizabeth had at least 8 children: Mary, Henry, Hannah, Caroline, Rose, Sarah, Franklin and Alice. There are numerous Keiper and Prutzman families spread across Luzerne, Carbon and Monroe counties. I had never been able to connect Reuben and Elizabeth to any of these other families.

Several years ago, I obtained a copy of Reuben’s will from the Carbon County Courthouse, in Jim Thorpe, PA, hoping to learn more about Reuben. I learned a little bit more, but what puzzled me was that the will stated that he was living in Clinton County, Indiana, at the time the will was written in 1883. It also said that he had been living with his daughter, Rose Wasser, for years in her home in White Haven, PA. Why was Reuben suddenly living so far away in Indiana, after living in Pennsylvania all his life, and clearly was in “declining health?”

Last will of Reuben Keiper

Last will of Reuben Keiper. Carbon County Orphan’s Court Records.

I may have found the answer early this morning. It all started when I decided to check Facebook first thing this morning. A post in the Luzerne County Genealogy Facebook group about Newspapers.com adding more issues of the Wilkes-Barre Record caught my eye. This prompted me to go and do some searches, including the surname, Keiper.

This actually led to several random searches in a few newspapers in the Luzerne County area. One result was an obituary in a Pittson newspaper for a Samuel Eckhart who died in 1916. Samuel had three surviving sisters; one of those being a “Mrs. Franklin Keiper.” I knew that Reuben had a son named Franklin and that he had married Amelia Eckhart. What was interesting was that the other sisters also married men with the surname of Keiper! There was a “Mrs. James Keiper” and a “Mrs. Reuben Keiper.”

Long story short, this led me to start looking at the Pennsylvania Death Certificate collection and census records on Ancestry.com and finding a whole mess of other Keiper families, some with the same first names. In fact, I am still in the process of sorting them all out and trying to figure out if and how they are all related. As I discovered more names, I would go back to Newspapers.com and do a search to see if I could find any obituaries to help me sort things out. One of the names, that I did a search for was “Amos Keiper.”

Well, I did find an obituary and some articles about the one Amos Keiper I originally did a search for who was living in Luzerne County. However, it was this article in the March 7, 1883 Allentown Democrat, that really caught my eye:

The Allentown Democrat (Allentown, Pennsylvania) 7 Mar 1883, Wed • Page 2

The Allentown Democrat
(Allentown, Pennsylvania)
7 Mar 1883, Wed • Page 2

The article was a notice trying to locate relatives of an Amos Keiper who had lived in Clinton County, Indiana and died intestate and no heirs to his estate. Clinton County, Indiana was where my Reuben Keiper when he made his last will! I immediately opened up the digital copy of Reuben’s will just to make sure it was the same place. Not only did the locations match, but the witnesses for his will were Pernal K. Thomas and J.R. Brown. The same names listed as administrators for the estate of Amos Keiper in the newspaper article! Now, I may have found the answer as to why Reuben Keiper was so far away from home.

So my next step is to write to the Clinton County Circuit court for copies of Amos Keiper probate records and see if there are any more answers or clues. I know the day that SASE arrives back in my mailbox seems so far away.

So, that is my tale of how I totally got “so far away” off track from what I had originally planned for my blog post. I seemingly kept getting even further and further away on a meandering trail of newspaper articles, and census records, only to end up with something tied in back to my own direct line.

However, what really amazes me is that I somehow was able to connect all my morning’s research to this week’s theme.

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3 comments

  1. Well, a disappointing follow-up to this story. I received an email from the Clinton County Clerk’s office. The woman who emailed me had found the name “Amos Kiber” in their indexes. However, she did not find anything:

    “After searching through the older estate books, I did find the name Amos Kiber as I mentioned in my last email. I looked into the corresponding probate files that were mentioned in the estate books and found absolutely nothing. I am not sure why this individuals name is listed for these probate cases. I brought this up to another lady within our office and we are both stumped. From the lack of information I found, I am unable to confirm or deny if the Kiber and Keiper individuals are the same person.”

    Looks like the brick wall just got bigger instead of breaking.

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